That theory is worthless. It isn’t even wrong.
- Wolfgang Pauli
THE CELESTIAL TOYROOM
Before we go anywhere, you should probably read this.
Me: Right then. Ready?
Him: For what?
We’re off. There’s a swift recap.
Me: End of The Ark. The Doctor’s become a gas, remember?
The Doctor: This is some form of attack!
Him: “It’s by John Wiles.”
The titles come up. Brian Hayles is mentioned.
Me: Creator of the Nasty Warriors.1
|"Hello, Master Bruce."|
The invisible (and intangible) Doctor wanders around the TARDIS. The scanner is turned on, but nothing definite is revealed. Steven opens the doors and everyone troops out for a look.
Me: Oh. There he is. Alfred.
Alfred selects some dolls from a giant dollhouse. They grow.
Outside the TARDIS, the Doctor’s back. He finds the place somewhat familiar.
All of a sudden a TV robot arrives and shows them snapshots of the past.
Me: Ok. Look.
Then it gets odd.
Me: Wait a minute, not only has Alfred got all the missing episodes but the Doctor knows who he is.
Me: And Alfred’s heard of Dodo too.
Him: How’s the Toymaker heard of Dodo?
Me: There are some theories. I’m not sure if I should go into them yet.
Alfred’s a power for evil, and able to dominate your mind. The TARDIS vanishes. In the TV Robot’s tummy (or ‘Memory Window’) Dodo sees her mother die. Alfred’s made lots and lots of TARDISes so our friends can’t leave. Suddenly, like an old oak table, the Doctor vanishes2 and the clowns turn up. They offer the hand of friendship, squirty flowers and annoying noises.
Me: That one’s a bit Harpoesque with his communicative parping.
Him: ‘Parpo’. Parpo and Squeaky.
Alfred’s back and outlining the rules to the first game that Steven and Dodo will be playing. They have to win all of their games before the Doctor finishes his in order to leave.
Him: How did he get there?
Me: I’m not sure. He could be a god.
Him: Is he Rassilon?
Me: He’s not Rassilon.
Him: He could be.
Me: Well, the Game of Rassilon was played on Gallifrey4 – none of which was even on the table at this time. Then again, none of the theories that I’m going to run by you can be correct at the time of first broadcast. There are some that are very worth acknowledging but we’re not going to go too deeply into those here, for reasons pointed out by Vorg north of this sentence. Do you remember Enlightenment?
Him: No. I remember the explody thing that Tegan was wearing on her head. And the crystal and Turlough throwing it. And the Black Guardian… So, yeah… I pretty much remember the whole thing.
Me: Do you remember the Eternals?
Him: Which ones were the Eternals?
Me: The Singing Pirates and the Barron.
Me: Well, Alfred could be one of them.
Him: That’s not likely.
Me: He fits some of the profile.
Me: The whole using mortals, or ‘ephemerals’, as entertainment whilst trying to stave off the crippling enuii brought on by eternity bit.
Him: Just press ‘play’.
Me: Oh, it’s paused. We’ll have another theory in the next episode.
Steven and Dodo prepare to play Blind Man’s Buff. Alfred vanishes and joins the Doctor in time to say something intriguing.
Me: Did you hear what Alfred just said?
Alfred: It’s so nice to see you again.
Him: So, the last time that the Doctor was here, he was the Eighth Doctor in that comic.
Me: How’d you remember that?
Him: I just do.
Me: I only flicked through that one.
Him: You read the whole thing to me.
Me: I’ve got no recollection of that at all. That’s weird. Sorry.
The trilogic game is introduced.
Him: Oh no, not that. I hate that game.
Me: Apparently, it’s really easy. Unless you’re a gas.
Him: But he’s not – he’s got one hand left.
Alfred outlines the rules.
Him: I’ve done this!
Alfred’s outlined the rules.
Me: Does seem a bit easy.
This then led to a protracted mime version of the trilogic game, where I attempted to show how easy it would be whilst the Him kept pointing out that I’d got it wrong. I hadn’t.
Dodo and Steven play their game.
Him: It’s not fair on Dodo and Steven because they don’t know how to fly the TARDIS, so if they win they can’t leave.
Me: Steven could always leave Dodo as a deposit.
Steven and Dodo play on. Dodo’s having fun.
Me: Dodo’s missing the gravity of the situation again.
The male clown gets named.
Him: They should’ve called the clowns ‘Bruck’ and ‘Tanni’.
I didn’t say, ‘They nearly did’, because I’ve got a soft spot for Steven and both Mr Purves and Ms Lane are doing their very best. It was tempting though, but I was distracted by a sudden realisation.
Me: This is the first part. It’s going to be the same episode over and over again.
Him: No, it’s not.
The Doctor and Alfred plod on. Alfred decides to make it more fun by cheating. He reduces the Doctor to just one hand.
|Worse than that, it's got an automatic lock-in too.|
Meanwhile, Steven and Dodo are entering the blindfold phase.
Clown cheating commences. Noisy clown cheating.
Him: That clown’s got bad wind.
Me: Doesn’t work on radio.
Squeaky pulls out an egg.
Him: Do you never carry a hard-boiled egg in your hair?
Me: Those days are long gone.
Steven shuffles through a tube right back to the start. Dodo’s furious at the clown’s bad sportsmanship.
Me: Dodo wakes up.
And now it’s Parpo’s go, mit blindfold. Following nonsense, Parpo dies, followed by Squeaky.
Dodo and Steven achieve the TARDIS, but it’s a fake.
Him: That was easy.
There’s a riddle while the trilogic game drags on.
Him: ‘The Hall of Balls’? Oh, that’s cool!
Him: Doesn’t mean that I can read it, of course.
Four legs, no feet;
Of arms no lack;
It carries no burden on its back;
Six deadly sisters, seven for choice;
Call the servants without voice.
1. This joke stolen from the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.
2. This one first appeared in the Blackadder II episode entitled Chains, trivia fans.3
3. Does anyone even read these footnotes? I make a special effort to make them as inconveniently uninformative as possible, so hopefully not.
4. Y’know? In Ireland.
THE HALL OF DOLLS
Me: Right then, second theory: Alfred’s one of the Gods of Ragnarok.
Him: Are you going to do these each episode?
Him: (sigh) Ok. What’s ‘Ragnarok’?
Me: It’s a Teutonic End of Days type thing. The chaps crop up in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, which I haven’t seen, so I don’t know if this is a good theory really. It’s humans dancing for the amusement of deities again.
The riddle makes a reappearance.
Me: Any idea?
Him: A cow.
Me: A cow?
Him: A cow.
Me: Man Yak?
A door gets walked through, and then another one doesn’t. The trilogic game drags on. The TV Robot appears.
Dodo: I know, let’s call him ‘Fred’.
Me: It’s Romana.
The Doctor and Alfred are having a chat. Dodo and Steven’s names appear on what’re either cots or chairs. Alfred info-dumps like a good ‘un, which is ironic seeing as he’s a wrong ‘un.
Me: “Now, you must go on holiday for a fortnight.”
Alfred holds some cards in a fan.
Me: That reminds me. I found a card on the pavement the other day.
Him: Really? Was it a knave?
Me: I don’t know. Looked a bit weird. Something of clubs.
Him: Knave of clubs?
Me: Trunk of clubs more like. I left it there. Here's a picture.
Me: That’s a straight shot of how I found it. It was inverted, if that means anything. Which it doesn’t.
Steven and Dodo and Alfred discuss the rules of this episode’s game. There’s a fade and then we’re presented with chairs and a living King and Queen of Hearts.
Me: ‘Allo ‘Allo.5 It’s Parpo and Squeaky.
Him: Are they?
|Goodbye to the Village.|
The riddle gets rerun through and a Joker and Knave appear.
Me: All gone a bit Killing Joke.
There are killer chairs and a cupboard, then some dolls get called and the King and Queen turn up. Dodo points out that these constructs are actually real people, and thus, also victims. It’s another interesting point to raise, which makes it doubly annoying that it then gets ignored.
Him: The Toymaker’s actually Hi-Fi! It all makes sense now!
Me: Or Barbara’s getting her own back.
Stuff happens. A doll gets plapped in the selected chair to see if it’s booby trapped. It is.
Me: Dodo sounds like she’s playing at the wrong speed.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Forty-five rather than thirty-three. And a third.
Electrocution, well sort of, takes place. The Knave is dispatched and a doll is bisected by a knife.
The King’s doll’s head is shaken off. The last doll disintegrates, as any fool can plainly see.
Queen: I can see that
Me: No, you can’t.
More stuff happens – there’s a quick riddle: “What goes up a chimney down, and can’t come down a chimney up?”
Me: An umbrella.
More stuff happens that ends as Dodo lowers herself into the chair she’s decided is safe. Alfred’s delighted at this.
Alfred: Young Dodo has chosen to sit in the wrong chair. The freezing chair!
Him: Last one with Dodo?
Steven saves Dodo.
The King and Queen are checking their logic. There’s one chair left, so they both sit in it. In keeping with the rest of the story, nothing happens.
Steven and Dodo come in and the King and Queen’s chair collapses, killing them both instantly. Somehow.
Another fake TARDIS appears, a phone rings and then there’s another riddle.
Hunt the key, to fit the door;
That leads out on the dancing floor.
Then escape the rhythmic beat;
Or you’ll forever tap your feet.
On the plus side, we’re halfway through.
5. This is an obligatory observation. Message ends.
THE DANCING FLOOR
Me: And the third theory is that we’re in the World of Fiction. This one makes a kind of sense, I guess. It’s worth thinking back to The Chase and that intriguing comment the Doctor made about the capabilities of Idris.
Go on, have a look – it’s in the section concerning Journey Into Terror, just under the picture of Vrestin pining for Chessington. We’ll still be here when you get back.
Me: Not going for that one?
|"Wish I'd brought my panda."|
Him: What’s wrong with Steven’s face?
The Doctor and Alfred fill in the plot.
Ballerinas dance towards Steven and Dodo.
Me: ‘The Ballet of Fear’.
Dodo and Steven are steered through a door and into a kitchen.
Me: Not very secure.
Sergeant Rugg (a soldier) and Mrs Wiggs (a cook) wait in the kitchen.
Him: “Mr Choke and Mrs Strangle.”
The Him twigs it’s ‘Mrs Wiggs’ and-
There’s a locked door leading to a dancing floor. This episode’s game is announced.
Him: What’s ‘Hunt the Thimble’?
Me: It’s an old game we don’t play very often these days.
Alfred cheats, surprising nobody.
In the kitchen, a cuckoo clock is examined.
Him: It attacks!
Me: It’s going to be a whole episode of set exploration.
Plates get broken.
More plates get broken.
Me: It’s like an improvised pantomime of Alice in Wonderland… in HELL!6
The key is found. Ballerinas are waiting on the Dancing Floor.
Me: They know what a TARDIS is. I guess we’re really just missing an unseen adventure. Sometime after The Five Doctors.
The Ballerinas dance. For ages.
Me: Do you think they explode?
|A Nexus 4, circa 1966.|
There’s sudden music triggered by movement, like Jean Michel Jarre’s wonderful laser harp. Steven waltzes.
Me: Following his behaviour in Galaxy 4, you wouldn’t have thought Steven would object.
Stuff happens, partners change and the next fake TARDIS is achieved.
Him: Have we said anything for a while?
Me: Time passes slower while this monstrosity drags its ailing carcass on and on.
All of a sudden there’s a fat, jolly schoolboy who isn’t in any way Billy Bunter. He’s called ‘Cyril’ for a start.
Him: The Doctor’s not very good at this.
Me: He’s playing for time. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him.
Cyril gives Dodo some sweets
Cyril Bunter: Yaroo!
Lucky us – there’s a final lacklustrous riddle:
Lady luck will show the way;
Win the game, or here you’ll stay.7
6. Sometimes an explanation is required and sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s not the case but you get one anyway. Guess which this is?
Thousands of years ago, Slayer seemed to have a tendency to use quite similar song structures on a relatively relentless rotation. First there’d be an intro, then a verse, then a chorus, and then we would enter the moment of the carefully credited solos. This structure would then repeat, without the intro naturally, until either the song stopped or ran into another one. Something that I noticed, which may or may not be the case – like I said, this was thousands of years ago – was that whilst the individual bits (verse, chorus and so on) leading up to the solos would all sound unique to that song, the moment that Tom Araya would bellow “IN HELL!” everything would go double-time and the fret-bothering call and response would begin.
Consequently, yelling “IN HELL!” is an easy way of livening up any otherwise plodding narrative. Just saying.
There. You weren’t expecting that were you?
7. We don’t do that joke any more.
THE FINAL TEST
Me: Ok, couple of things. Final theory first: Alfred’s Fenric.
Him: What about the Dream Lord?
Me: Yup – you can have that. Both theories are a bit mince.
Him: Yeah, kind of.
Me: And this was nearly William Hartnell’s final episode. His contract only extended to this one, which is partly why you’ll have noticed he’s vanished. Wiles (and Tosh, I think) were planning on having the Doctor appear as a different actor. Following that transformation, Steven and Dodo would be unsure if he really was the Doctor or just one of Alfred’s less off-colour jokes. One of the BBC Cult of Skaro – the Contract Dalek at a guess - put a stop to that wizard jape. William Hartnell’s contract was renewed and Wiles and Tosh tendered their resignations instead.
Him: Can I press ‘play’ now?
Me: Ah. The respect it deserves. Good lad.
The credits fumble on.
Him: “Da Foinal Test”.
The rules of Snakes and Ladders are explained.
Me: “Bow ties are cool.”
The Doctor and Alfred are- Oh God, I’m losing the will to live…
Me: Cyril’s dressed as Number Six.
Stuff happens. Some of it accidental.
Me: Whoah. Camera crew at 4’ 32”.
The Doctor and Alfred race lions.
Me: Bill’s back from Cromer.
Suddenly, Bunter’s got a gorilla mask. It startles Dodo, but not fatally.
Me: It is! It’s The Prisoner! Maybe they’ve actually landed in the Village and Alfred’s the new Number Two. It makes about as much sense as the other theories. And it’s just as anachronistic.
Steven: I’m going to see if there’s an invisible barrier around his backside.
Him: That’s a double entendre!
Me: How do you know about those?
Him: Read it in a book.
Move 1000 takes place. And then-
Me: Twenty-three, eh?
Cyril Bunter cheats and gets Dodo to help him.
Dodo’s sent back to the start. Cyril celebrates then explodes.
Me: “Frying tonight!”
And that’s that game over.
The Doctor’s flu’s cleared up and he’s finished the trilogic game. Well, almost.
Him: And he’s done it.
The Doctor trudges back to the TARDIS.
Him: He hasn’t won yet.
It’s a humming TARDIS, so it must be the right one. Alfred appears on the monitor of the TV Robot. Yes, it’s like a Tellytubby. The Doctor is insulted.
Me: “’Elderly’? Oh, I’ll give him such a thump…”
Me: I feel sorry for Jackie Lane.
Me: She can’t do much with Dodo with the way her character’s been written.
The Doctor can’t thump Alfred.
Him: “Why no violence?”
Because no-one can leave until the game’s over. It’s a zugzwang. Tch. To make matters worse, Alfred’s immortal. And patient.
Him: So the Doctor must have beaten him the last time as well?
Me: Reckon so.
Him: Hold on a second.
Him: You can see the TARDIS on the scanner. That makes no sense.
Me: Maybe the camera for the scanner’s on a periscopic type thing.
Him: Wouldn’t you notice it though? A big thing coming out and pointing at the TARDIS?
Me: You’d certainly think so, wouldn’t you?
Him: Uh huh.
Through cheating, our heroes escape.
Him: Why’s the Toymaker flipping out?
There’s a debrief aboard the TARDIS.
Dodo: We’ll never see him again will we, Doctor?
Us: (together) No.
Me: ‘The mind is indestructible’? What? Are we talking about ghosts here?
Him: There won’t.
Me: That’s where the Fenric idea comes from. As an aside: some wag altered the IMDb page for The Wedding of River Song in the weeks before it was aired. He adjusted it so that Mark Gatiss was listed as playing Fenric, which made a kind of sense, I guess. A small part of the internet melted as a result.
Him: I’m not so good with the whole theory thing.
Me: I wouldn’t worry. All these theories are a Whizzo Assorted Selection Box of Foetid Dingo Kidneys, really – especially mine. They’re just for fun, so don’t call in.
Talking of Whizzo Assorted Selections, Dodo’s found some sweets. Yaroo!
Me: Remember them?
The Doctor: AAAAARRRGH!
NEXT: A HOLIDAY FOR THE DOCTOR
Me: There’s a pun.
Him: I don’t recall the Doctor dying at the start of The Gunfighters.
Me: He didn’t, but he did need a dentist.
Me: And that dentist turns out to be Doc Holliday. Hence, A Holiday for the Doctor. Even if it’s spelt wrong.
Him: That hurts.
Me: It’s not as bad as toothache.